Friday, February 25, 2011

Prussia: No Garlic. No State.

In the 1600's, the Prussian government banned the import of robust Italian garlic in hopes of saving its own garlic industry which, alas, produced weaker, smaller garlic. To preserve their livelihood (and mindful of the fact that Prussian royals preferred Italian garlic) some clever pasta makers in Sicily invented Paccheri pasta, wide-hollow tubes, each of which could be used to smuggle four or five garlic cloves across the Alpine border. They were so successfully that ultimately, the Prussian garlic trade folded.

64 years ago, Prussia itself suffered the same fate. It was dissolved by the Allied Control Council on this day in 1947. I modified this recipe for Paccheri with Shrimp from one by Mary Ann Esposito whose Ciao Italia is America’s longest running television cooking show. (Take that Rachel Ray!)

Paccheri with Garlic Shrimp and Tomatoes
1/4 c. olive oil
6 cloves of garlic
2 t. red pepper flakes
1 c. cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 c. dry white wine
2 lbs. shrimp
chopped parsley, to garnish
1/2 lb. paccheri pasta

Heat olive oil and saute garlic until soft. Add tomatoes and red pepper flakes. Cook one or two minutes then add the wine and bring to a boil; lower the heat and add the shrimp. Cover with a lid and cook about 8 minutes.

While the shrimp cook, cook the paccheri in low boiling salted water (see note) until al dente. Drain and add them to the sauté pan with the shrimp with some of the pasta water. Cook a few minutes until everything is well blended. Season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

Italians don’t believe in serving cheese with seafood, but I’m not Italian.

Note: Unlike most pasta, paccheri should be boiled on a low boil so it doesn’t split.

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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Do you believe in miracles .... YES!

Lightening things up a bit, let's honor the Miracle on Ice in which the American hockey team, composed of collegiate players and amateurs, defeated the heavily-favored Soviet team at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid. That game took place on February 22, 1980. The American team went on to defeat Finland for the Gold Medal two days later.

I attached a picture of fresh figs because they're pretty, but they're not available until May. Fortunately, this recipe calls for dried figs and fig molasses so you can get you fig fix year-round. The recipe from Chef Paul Sorgule, the former Executive Chef at the Mirror Lake Inn, a truly breathtaking inn on the shores of Lake Placid.

I love this notation from the inn's menu: "All dishes contain onions, garlic, scallions or shallots in their preparation but some may be substituted or altered upon request." (Italics mine).

Chicken and Figs

8 halves boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1 c. seasoned flour

¼ c. clarified butter

2 T. vegetable oil

8 peeled pearl onions (cut in half)

4 garlic cloves (thinly sliced)

1 c. rutabaga (medium dice)

1 c. carrots (medium dice)

1 c. dried figs (cut in half)

1 oz. brandy

1 1/2 c. chicken stock

¼ c. fig molasses *

3 T. chopped parsley (finely chopped)

Dredge the chicken breasts in seasoned flour.

Heat the clarified butter and oil and light brown the chicken on both sides. Discard the oil/butter.

Blanch the carrots, rutabaga and pearl onions.

Deglaze the hot chicken pan with brandy and allow to evaporate. Add the chicken stock, vegetables, figs and chicken.

Cover and place in a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes. Return to stove, uncover and reduce till the sauce coats the back of a spoon.

Assemble on plate by distributing the vegetables among 4 plates, top with 2 pieces of chicken each, mask with a small amount of sauce, drizzle each plate with fig molasses and garnish with chopped parsley.

* Fig molasses are a sweet, ancient specialty of Calabria, "the toe of Italy's boot" on the map. They're available at specialty food stores and are amazing on pancakes. You can substitute regular molasses if you're out of fig ones.

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Monday, February 21, 2011

Marx, Garlic, & Nazis

The Communist Manifesto, written by Karl Mark and Friederich Engels, was published on this date in 1848. (Marx was 30 years old at the time, thus this picture of young Marx seems more apt than the iconic gray bearded image.) Marx’s father converted from Judaism to Protestantism after his son was born and young Karl was baptized in 1824 and grew up in an anti-Semitic environment. This didn’t stop Neue Rheinische Zietung correspondent Eduard von Muller-Tellering from calling Marx “a conceited Jew” who “perspired democratic garlic.”

While the menace of anti-Semitism in Europe grew throughout the 19th century, the idea of a foetor Judaicus (Jewish stink) was not new. It was used in medieval Europe to differentiate “the base and odorous Jews” from “the pure, sweet-smelling Christians.” Some Christians believed that Jewish people were responsible for the death of Jesus and had him crucified so they could use his blood to get rid of the foetor Judaicus.

The Nazis called on science to explain the smell of the Jew. In the periodical Forschungen fur Judenfrage (Researches on the Jewish Problem), Baron Otmar von Verschuer wrote, “It has also been claimed by various sources that the Jews are characterized by a particular ‘racial scent’ ... it is difficult to judge what is attributable in this regard to environmental influences, such as living quarters, clothing, occupational activity, cleaning of the body and the composition of food; one need only think of the consumption of garlic, which the Jews like.”

The garlic plant was so indelibly associated with Jews that the Nazis issued buttons with pictures of garlic bulbs so wearers could broadcast their ardent anti- Semitism. According to historian Mark Graubard, "The mere mention of garlic by a Nazi orator caused the crowd to howl with fury and hatred."

Okay, this is another intense post to which adding a recipe doesn’t feel right. But don’t worry. Tomorrow is the 31st anniversary of the Miracle on Ice, when the US Olympic hockey team stunned the Soviet team, so I’ll share a garlic-studded recipe for chicken and figs from Lake Placid’s Mirror Lake Inn Resort and Spa. (Marx would have considered the spectacular inn hopelessly bourgeois.)

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Friday, February 11, 2011

The Amazing Life of Charley Garlick

On February 11, 1790, the Religious Society of Friends (my people, better known as the Quakers) petitioned the US Congress to abolish slavery. On the same day, 71 years later, the House of Representatives unanimously passed a resolution guaranteeing noninterference with slavery in any state.

In the middle of February, 1827, Abel Bougguess was born a slave in West Virginia. He escaped to Ohio via the Underground Railroad at 16 and was taken in by A. K. Garlick (tenuous connection to this blog) who sent him to school where he thrived. His benefactor called him Charley and on his suggestion and in his honor, Bouggess adopted the name Charley Garlick. (A.K. Garlick was known for his long “whiskers” which he refused to cut off until all the slaves were freed.)

Garlick went to Oberlin where, he writes, he was one of “sixty or seventy colored boys” in a class at Liberty Hall. He became an admirer of the noted abolitionist, Ohio Congressman Joshua R. Giddings and his fervent anti-slavery speeches. Garlick rode to Jefferson to shake hands with Giddings who took a liking to him. They became so close that when Garlick’s house burned down, he went to live with Giddings and his family. Garlick died in 1912 and was buried in the Giddings plot at Oakdale Cemetery, not far from the congressman.

No recipe. Just an amazing story.

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Monday, February 7, 2011

Happy Birthday Eddie Izzard!

Action Transvestite (and the funniest man on earth), comedian Eddie Izzard turns 49 today.

In assorted sketches, he explains why vampires are not a threat in real life (because we all know the drill: "Sign of the cross, Stake to the heart, then, Garlic Bread ... or perhaps garlic bread as a starter; why it would be better if Jesus's body was represented by cheese than bread as it goes better with wine (Eat this cheese, for it is my body") and how the Trojans attacked Achilles' heel with crabs and lobster. “No, not the crabs and lobsters! Aah! Aah!"

So, herewith a recipe for Garlic Bread with Cheese and Crab. Bet you didn't think I could tie that all together -- ha! (Feel free to add lobster if you're feeling flush, but I didn't use it in the original recipe.)

Perhaps Garlic Bread with Cheese and Crab as a Starter

One loaf of ciabatta, cut in half horizontally
one stick softened butter
6 cloves of minced garlic
1 t. salt
1/2 lb fresh crab
1/4 c. mozzarella
1/4 c. mayonnaise
1/4 c. sun-dried tomatoes
2 scallions, finely chopped
1 t. Old Bay Seasoning

1/2 c. mozzarella cheese to top

Blend butter, garlic and salt. Top ciabatta halves with garlic butter and place under broiler until lightly browned

Combine all other ingredients. Top lightly-toasted bread with crab mix and then sprinkle with mozzarella cheese. Place under broiler again for 3-5 minutes, until top is melted and bubbly.

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